back to article Supreme Court ignores Google's whinging in Java copyright suit

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear Google's appeal of Oracle's case against it in the matter of the Java API copyrights, leaving it up to a lower court to decide what - if any - damages Google owes. Google was hoping the Supremes would weigh in on the issue of whether software APIs are copyrightable under current US …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is taking the piss and a stupid precedent, at least the EU had the sense to say FU to API patent or copyright.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      "This is taking the piss and a stupid precedent, "

      I think what it demonstrates quite clearly is how utterly clueless members of the legal "profession" are when it comes to anything related to technology. Curiously the parasites seem to think its necessary to learn some basic business principles for when executing company and tax law, but when it comes to IT (and probably other engineering and scientific disciplines) they seem to assume they can just wing it. I can only assume this is either A) They're so arrogant they think its easy or B) They know its hard and don't want to look stupid - and potentially lose clients - when they fail.

      1. sisk

        I can only assume this is either A) They're so arrogant they think its easy or B) They know its hard and don't want to look stupid - and potentially lose clients - when they fail.

        I kinda get the impression that the thought is "I can run a computer so I know the basics of IT". Sadly I think we all around here know that the ability to run Windows is not indicative of a basic understanding of technology. If you don't understand that yet work the helpdesk for a couple weeks and you will.

    2. Snow Wombat

      Oh Don't worry...

      They'll come up with a trade treaty to get around that.

      Just like we Pacific nations are about to get boned with the TPP

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Declining to hear a case isn't setting a precedent

      When the Supreme Court declines to review a decision, the decision is only a precedent in the circuit of the appeal court that made the ruling. Typically the Supreme Court won't review decisions until there is a disagreement between different appeals courts, or it feels the lower court reached an incorrect decision because it applied the wrong law (in which case it'll tell them which law to apply and remand the case back down for reconsideration)

      The way the process was set up, it was intended that correcting lower court decisions that are a matter of legislative or executive branch priority, which patent law is, should move at a very slow pace to allow those branches to make changes themselves if they aren't getting the result they want.

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    Andrew Orlowski article dissing freetards, praising copyrights on APIs soon

    whether Google's infringement of Oracle's Java copyrights constituted "fair use."

    should be

    whether Google's non-infringement of Oracle's Java copyrights constituted "fair use."

    Well, do they constitute "fair use"? Umm.... it can be monetized, so probably not, right?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Andrew Orlowski article dissing freetards, praising copyrights on APIs soon

      I guess you were among those who cheered when Sun won over Microsoft about Java.... wasn't Microsoft "fair use" of Java as well?

      1. PassiveSmoking

        Re: Andrew Orlowski article dissing freetards, praising copyrights on APIs soon

        Nope, MS Java was a deliberate attempt to destroy Sun Java with Microsoft's "Embrace, Extend, Exterminate" technique. Microsoft subverted the "Write Once, Run Anywhere" philosophy of Java by deliberately changing the way the language worked in some circumstances and by providing features in their version that weren't in the specifications so that people would develop applications under MS Java with the intent that they wouldn't run in any other version. This was found to be an abuse of a monopoly and in violation of antitrust laws.

        1. david 12 Silver badge

          Re: Andrew Orlowski article dissing freetards, praising copyrights on APIs soon

          Java was, at the time, slow and archaic. As the line went: "All the readability of C, plus the sheer speed of interpreted BASIC". The reason MS's "Java" was a threat was that it was faster and had a better library. Which had an immediate salutary effect on Sun's "Java" development, before they managed to kill the competition, as they have since tried to do with both Google and with the open-source version.

        2. Indolent Wretch

          Re: Andrew Orlowski article dissing freetards, praising copyrights on APIs soon

          And it's worth pointing out that the main point that caught Microsoft out in that case was despite all the stuff they changed, failed to implement properly or just added for fun Microsoft insisted on calling the bastard thing "Java".

          In the end what got them was trademark infringement, claiming the thing was Java when it wasn't.

          Google didn't do that, they've don't call the thing Java, they've never advertised it as Java.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Andrew Orlowski article dissing freetards, praising copyrights on APIs soon

      And bang on cue here is Andrew's piece dissing Google and praising copyright:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/06/30/eu_lisbon_council_lobbynomics/

      It is as you have foreseen it oh master ;)

      PS He's disabled comments on the piece because he knows we'll only throw rotten vegetables at him.

      1. arrbee

        Re: Andrew Orlowski article dissing freetards, praising copyrights on APIs soon

        As someone who works for a living and would quite like to be able to provide for my family for a few more years I'm quite keen on copyright, albeit not its Disneyfication.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Andrew Orlowski article dissing freetards, praising copyrights on APIs soon

          @arrbee

          I work for a living but hey guess what, I don't work then I don't get paid. I don't get any of that death plus 70 years shit so I have to save part of my salary into this thing called a pension which if I am lucky has not been fucked over by the banking system and the Government by the time I drop dead retire.

  3. Youngone

    Not totally OT

    I was wondering what the TPP (and the US - EU version) have to say about this? I suppose we'll find out 4 or 5 years after they've been imposed on us and the law suits begin.

    1. Breen Whitman

      Re: Not totally OT

      Infringers will be sued in their home country.

      If no relief is forthcoming the US will seek extradition where they will be executed on US soil.

      I doubt it will be much more complicated then that.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I don't quite understand is what Oracle hope to gain out of this.

    The only reason I have Java installed on my PC at all is because of Android development. If they piss off Google, there is a good chance Google will go off and invent some "Java-like" alternative and replace Java completely (I mean it's not a bad language, but its not worth billions - you can build a good alternative for that kind of $$$). Which means Java will die all the more quickly.

    Ah no. It's Oracle - squeeze all you can out of it while you can and then dump it because you never wanted it in the first place. I remember ...

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      They should have gone with python from the start

      For crying out loud we live in a world where Apple has managed to make Objective C palatable to developers. If that is possible, anything is possible. Google should have gone with python from the start. By the way - it is used internally in the latest BlackBerry OS so quite clearly it is fit for purpose to run on mobile even without significant runtime investment.

      By the way - I agree with you - more than 60% of the java development footprint today is Android related. Oracle _IS_ p*ssing in their own cornflakes here.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "Google will go off and invent some "Java-like" alternative and replace Java completely

      Maybe now it will do, but in the beginning it wanted a known language and toolset at no cost - and chose not to license Java but use a copy of it. MIcrosoft was sued by Sun despite the license agreement because it was "optimizing" Java for Windows... let's see when Google creates G#... <G>.

      But it would cost too much to create the whole development environment and move developers - Android will keep on using its copy of Java.

    3. Tom Chiverton 1

      Why do you think you can't use Eclipse as your Android IDE any more ? Direct-to-native compiling is the thing. They've built the eco system and don't need the 'its Java you know' crutch any more.

    4. THUFIR HAWAT
      Stop

      Exactly hits the nail on the head. But let's examine your assertion: that Java isn't worth billions. Ok, what would've been the cost for Google to have invented a language of their own in the required timeframe? Secondly, what would've been the opportunity cost in *losing* "compatability" with Java?

      Seriously, put a dollar figure on that, WAG, and let's go from there.

      The appeals court addressed the second point quite thoroughly, that Google made a conscience choice to bypass the GPL *for money*. Which is fine, then pay Sun/Oracle. They chose not to do that, either. Now, they've got to bit the bullet.

      The ONLY positive news in this whole nonsense is that GOOGLE HAS FORKED OPENJDK like they should've from the get go. (Which is also what the appeals court pointed out.)

  5. John Sager

    I wonder if the Supreme Court understood the issue?

    Presumably they thought it couldn't be construed as a constitutional issue. IANAL so I dunno, though it's obviously important to clarify the situation. If custom & practice in the software industry for the past half century or so is to be sacrificed on the altar of Larry Ellison's greed then we're really up shit creek for a long time. I suppose in the end, certain APIs will be explicitly free to use by licence & others not, and the 'not' ones will get progressively ostracised. Shades of Unisys & GIF in the 90s.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if the Supreme Court understood the issue?

      I don't think at this point, they had to understand the issue. IANAL either but watching this court and reading of similar suits, they get tossed since there really isn't a Constitutional question raised. If it had been raised at the start of the lawsuit, or during the appeal.. maybe. The catch is, copyrights and patents are part of Congresses duty to "regulate trade". This issue really needs to be addressed in Congress.... like that will ever happen. To many lobbyists and vested interests around.

    2. Thorne

      Re: I wonder if the Supreme Court understood the issue?

      Of course not. They're judges. They haven't visited reality in a very long time.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if the Supreme Court understood the issue?

      I believe they did. The Constitution gives Congress the power to make law regarding copyright. Google did not satisfactorily establish that Congress had overstepped its constitutional bounds in the extant text of USC 17; thus there was no constitutional issue.

      If someone can make a better argument regarding the constitutionality of the existing text (or future text, as Congress amends it) of USC 17 in this matter, then SCOTUS may take it up. If other Federal circuits rule differently on the issue in the future, then we'll have conflicting precedent, and SCOTUS will have reason to take it up.

      But it's not the job of SCOTUS to rule preemptively on a fine point of copyright just because Google and many others in the industry (myself included) would like to see them do so.

      All of the whining here about the justices "not understanding technology" is completely beside the point. This decision had nothing to do with the merits of API copyrights or their possible effects on the industry; it had to do with the circumstances under which SCOTUS becomes involved.

      The most proper remedy under the Constitution in this case would be for Congress to pass a law updating USC 17 to clarify the question of API copyright. I don't see that happening soon, though, and I wouldn't want to put any bets on who can wield the most influence in such a case.

      1. THUFIR HAWAT
        WTF?

        Re: I wonder if the Supreme Court understood the issue?

        Are you really advocating that if *you* develop a unique and new API under the GPL that someone else can re-implement that API and tweak it without paying you a dime? Leaving aside trivial examples, like a sort method.

  6. asdf Silver badge

    every other profession must pay the lawyer tribute

    >Rather than squabble it out further, Google decided to go straight to the highest court in the land, in hopes of getting the whole thing quashed.

    And let all those billable hours disappear into thin air? Silly rabbit.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nothing to see here - yet

    Certiorari is rarely granted in a case that hasn't yet resulted in a final judgement. Frankly the issue here isn't the kind of life or death (or boom or bust) kind that would fit the bill for that. Just because Google and Oracle can afford to pay some lawyers to file such an extraordinarily expensive petition doesn't mean the Court has to let them cut ahead of thousands of other cases that have been in the pipeline a lot longer. Disappointing that no one in the press bothered to check the stats for rates of success in getting cert on an interlocutory appeal.

  8. Turtle

    Amusing.

    "Asked for comment on the matter, a Google spokesperson told The Reg via email, 'We will continue to defend the interoperability that has fostered innovation and competition in the software industry.'"

    Since Android/Dalvik and Java are not interoperable, it amuses me to see Google using interoperability as a defense.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Amusing.

      They are interoperable - at source level. The same level which is fine enough for most languages.

      The whole "build once, run nowhere" delusion is what it says on the tin - a delusion. The moment you start doing something vaguely more interesting in Java you run into that.

      Timers, name lookups and even basic things like sockets will have subtle differences running on different OSes. More than enough to flip the cart. The fact that the clueless *** who wrote the runtime have deliberately if-def-ed the source so that it does not use "universal" functions such as getnameinfo(), getaddressinfo(), etc and goes for obsolete, unmaintained and os specific equivalents such as gethostbyaddr_r() is not helping either. And do not even get me started on the subject of using obsolete code from old Solaris for thread scheduling and the mandatory waits in the java equivalent of posix thread notifications. Just read the source of the runtime. And weep.

      1. Pigeon

        Build maybe nonce at all

        Moons ago, I built a little utility to get a time signal from a radio clock. After trawling through the Java headers, I realised that some timezones were not included. The copyright notices in the headers were issued by the (big and failed in the 80's) IBM Taligent project. Many hands tried to make this light work.

        Google could throw the baby and get another one, but we will probably see the same outcome.

        There are 40 years of effort invested in this stuff. Yeah, call it a day, and start another one. Why not?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Amusing.

      You've missed the point.

      What's truely interoperable are the tools to make software, and the knowledge and syntax in the heads of programmers who write it.

      That was the big benefit here. Interoperability is a bigger subject than you think.

      1. Turtle

        @Anonymous Coward Re: Amusing.

        "What's truely interoperable are the tools to make software, and the knowledge and syntax in the heads of programmers who write it."

        Kinda like how your idea of "interoperability" exists only in your head, and not in any court of law?

  9. Blank Reg

    As APIs are original creative works they should be subject to copyright, just because people don't like it doesn't mean they shouldn't be copyrighted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      An API can be as simple as a set of design rules. For example, if you are the first to design a car then you could try to patent the design rules of the car. four doors and four wheels, accelerator on the right, brake in the middle, mirrors so you can see what's behind you and so on.

      If you allow this kind of thing, then you seriously jeopardize the very possibility of any competition in that market. No other auto manufacturer can put the accelerator on the right or put four doors on their cars. And who wants to drive a crazy clown car with the controls all over the place? No one, and so no one else can ever sell a car and whole industry becomes one giant monopoly.

      It is crazy to allow something as natural, sensible and often obvious as APIs or designs like a rectangle with rounded corners to be patented. It stifles healthy competition and forces competitors to eschew common-sense, practical and obvious designs simply because someone else did it that way before.

      Understand that this was never what the patent system was intended for. Patents are there to give the owners of genuinely innovative ideas and products a limited window of protection in which they can bring their product to market. After the patent expiration date it's fair game for all.

      The current set of so-called 'reforms' to the US patent system may allow this type of thing, but you can bet that the rest of the world will not follow suit and allow large multinationals to squeeze genuine innovators out of the market in favor of perpetual monopolization.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Uh.... did you RTFA? This about copyright, not patents.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Those are industry standards like POSIX is. But if you use special connectors and designs to make all those parts communicate to each other, you can patent them - and nobody can complain (and copy).

      3. fajensen Silver badge

        ... but you can bet that the rest of the world will not follow suit and allow large multinationals to squeeze genuine innovators out of the market in favor of perpetual monopolization.

        I bet that the politicians will sign us up for exactly that, first with the TTIP guaranteeing a right to profits for corporations and then we will see "infringement-bots" doing deep traffic inspection disguised as "fighting piracy / child porn / drugs / terrorism / instablity" on *any* thoughts, ideas, creative works, et cetera, exchanged on any medium readable by machines.

        "Fair Use" will come to mean that nation states will have to pay compensatory damages for traffic that contains any scrap of IP *claimed* to be owned by corporations - or face arbitration (not court). Claims will be initiated automatically, disputing claims is - of course - a manual process. The DMCA is just the beginning, the beta-run perhaps, of the future.

    2. Mark 65

      That's just stupid. Who's got the copyright on Math.Sin, Math.Cos, Math.Rand etc? See how dumb it is now. Creative work? Muppet.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        @Mark65

        That's just stupid. Who's got the copyright on Math.Sin...

        Why such complex, expressive and original API as an example (sarcasm intended)? Let's keep things simple shall we? ==, + and -. These _ARE_ APIs too.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. PassiveSmoking

      So if I list a book's table of contents/chapters I'm a filthy piece of copyright-infringing pirate scum who should be dragged before the courts and sued back to the stone age?

      That's what an API/Java interface basically amounts to.

      There's a chapter in LotR called "A shortcut to mushrooms". If I write a book about growing narcotic fungus and call one of my chapters that should I get the crap sued out of me?

      1. fajensen Silver badge

        one of my chapters that should I get the crap sued out of me?

        You will, once technological progress makes the process to discover your infringement and collect the license fee cheap enough, then it becomes a viable business model and someone will offer it as a service, like parking fees.

        The trick for the "service provider" is to not end up in court so no ruling is made whether they are actually entitled to collect.

  10. jonnycando

    Ought to be mooted

    Google probably are guilty as sin, but since Oracle raped and pillaged Sun well, they are no Saints either. And Java is so over and done.

  11. itzman

    Thank Clapton for open source

    As this is exactly why companies end up supporting open source projects.

  12. Anakin
    FAIL

    Pee to mark territory

    What Oracle have done here in an effort to pee in terrirory is pissing on it's own turf an now no one wan't it.

    Instead of a steady revenue years to come it will a short burst an no more

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    APIs are conceptually no different than any other kind of interface. If you made a phone that looked like an iPhone with all the same buttons, that might be almost like having the same API as Oracle Java. If you change the shape the phone and move the buttons around, that might be like renaming the functions. Sure, the functions do the same thing. They just have a different name!

    Once you start going into the abstract and philosophical, anything can somehow be similar... I think this is stupid. Of course it's nothing like iPhones, GUI widgets, car dash boards, etc... !

    What about that interoperability clause in the DCMA? Does that apply to APIs?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know this will sink like a stone but I have some (not much) sympathy for Oracle's argument. Designing a good API is not a trivial process and to afford the results of that work no protection under copyright law seems like an anomaly. Having said that applying copyright to API's now would cause a disaster in the software world so perhaps it's too late to even consider it. Perhaps a reasonable default solution is free to interact with and disseminate the API, not free to implement it. That way you get al the interoperatabily you want and the design can still be rewarded for their work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Regardless of the fact that APIs should not be protected under copyright at all, Oracle did not spend any time designing the API. Sun (Gosling) had created and were very happy for it to be used by Google, publically saying so and praising them for it and recently reiterating that. There was/is also an Open Source version for anyone to use and modify under the GPL. Yes, you can take Java and modify it and create derivative works of it.

      Oracle saw Google's use of it, thought "I wan't some of that" and promptly bought Java and then sued.

      Despite a very knowledgeable judge ruling that there was no issue with Google's use Oracle continued to fight. Google haven't stolen Oracle's hard work, Oracle bought Sun (Java) knowing that Google was using it and had the blessing to use it from the creator and copyright owner. Oracle are looking for a quick buck and don't give a damn about whether this harms the IT industry.

      Let's have another look at the work IBM did with SQL after this and see if Oracle are using anyone's APIs?

    2. Indolent Wretch

      I think you've the missed point slightly

      A) applying copyright to API's now would cause a disaster in the software world - AGREED

      B) perhaps it's too late to even consider it - AGREED

      C) They've done it

      "Perhaps a reasonable default solution is free to interact with and disseminate the API, not free to implement it"

      Scenario - There's a library that makes a lot of money, it's does something deeply complex and mathy, 1000s of programs and installations use it. I come up with a revolutionary way of doing it and it's miles better, previously I could market my library and my API and include a compatibility layer to allow users of the first library to drop in my replacement. The courts are basically now saying that's copyright infringement.

      This is nothing but Oracle killing competition.

      I wonder what the implications will be for MariaDB, you know, the free drop in replacement to MySQL. MySQL also now being owned by Sun.

  15. aurizon

    Bolt - ON API

    The justices do not seem to realize that this is just like bolting on a set of brake pads to a wheel, or a window wiper blade to a car. If this stands, then car makers should be able to forbid you to make after marker brake shows or wiper blades that fit in the same sets of holes and fittings = far more expensive brake shows or wiper blades that, by the way, must also be installed by our mechanics. And what's more, no-one else can make brakes shoes or wiper blades that use those bolts and fittings.

    A company crafts a software suits with published APIs for this express reason, so the world can use it. Any iof you that recall the Micro-Channel Architecture (MCA) that IBM tried to use to create an IBM computer ecology that required licences etc. will also recall that it took as much as 1-2 years to get a designe approved and that by the time approcal was granted, the product was obsolete, and by the way, an IMBmproduct with your features was rushed to market. Many former mighty companies tied their wagons to the mighty MCA wagon, few of them survived this debacle.

    So Oracle whould watch what it wishes for - it might get it...

  16. MacroRodent Silver badge

    The take-home message is...

    ... do not base your business on any API or language owned by another company! Either go for open standards, a spec controlled by a benign nonprofit foundation, or roll your own. Relying on interfaces copyrighted by another company now means that company has you by your testicles. You cannot rebase on a 3.part implementation of the API.

  17. RayRainer

    I believe Microsoft having lost the battle with Sun Java was a loss to the consumer. Oracle Java has become nothing but a nuisance with it's incessant unnecessary updates and annoying malware. I just hope something better replaces Java.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020